Can we talk about fasting? When I was in college, two Bible professors at our school regularly told their students that they fasted one day per week. Another professor criticized them for this, saying that they were violating what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount:

But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:17-18)

I disagree. Jesus gave similar warnings about public prayer, yet no one complains when others pray in their presence. We were warned not to let others know when we give, yet we regularly have a public offering during our assemblies. Only fasting has been placed in the “don’t ask, don’t tell” category.

I think that our policy of silence on fasting has hurt the church. We rarely teach about fasting. If truth be told, we rarely fast. Is that what Jesus wanted?

Hardly. Note that his teaching above begins “But when you fast,” making it apparent that he expected believers to fast. In the same way, He said that when He was no longer present on earth, His followers would fast (Mark 2:20). And Jesus fasted while living here on earth (Luke 4:2).

The early church fasted as part of its worship (Acts 13:2-3) and as part of the process for appointing elders in the church (Acts 14:23). Some Christians avoid talking about when they fast, but these passages show that the early church was comfortable in sharing that information. If we never talk about fasting, we’ll never learn to practice it.

Here are some suggestions:

The early church was comfortable with fasting. They taught about it. They practiced it. They even dared to talk about it.

We should do the same.

2 Responses

  1. “I think that our policy of silence on fasting has hurt the church. We rarely teach about fasting. If truth be told, we rarely fast. Is that what Jesus wanted? Hardly.”

    Really?? Which of the Gentile congregations fasted?

    There is no reference to fasting after Acts 14. So, Jesus really did not worry about whether or not we fast. And I would even wonder if He worried much about it in His day.

    His words on fasting were about ATTITUDE, not about the action. And it is one of the “when you… then” statements

    WHEN you fast…
    WHEN you give…
    WHEN you pray…
    WHEN you love

    etc.

    The ACT is not near as important as the ATTITUDE, I venture to say. Do not fast, give, pray, love in the way your leaders do – to be seen and praised and admired.

    But when YOU (member of the Kingdom of God (jews, now one and all) fast, give, pray, love – do it in such a way that no one suspects you of doing such a thing.

    If YOU, Tim, want to fast, be my guest, If YOU, Tim, think that is something Jesus “really wants us to do…” go for it! But do it in such a way that you do not draw attention to it.

  2. Hi Rudy. I’m curious why you don’t seem to see the Antioch church as a “Gentile church,” nor the churches Paul and Barnabas planted.

    As far as not calling attention to it, I think the point is not to call attention to ourselves. We should pray in a way that glorifies God, not glorifies us. And we should fast in a way that glorifies God, not glorifies us.

    I understand that in modern day America, fasting seems out of place. But it had a place in the New Testament church. And if you’ll look at church history, it’s had a place in the church ever since.

    Blessings.

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